As some of you know, I recently completed a cross country safari, that was a mix of both business and pleasure. During the journey home from Mesa, AZ, I experienced one of the funniest episodes of real life that I can recall. The experience was probably heightened a bit by the fact that my good friend Dan Campbell features a beleaguered rattlesnake in his comics, but there is also a good chance that the absurdity of the moment played a pretty big role as well.
To set the stage a bit, I am not a big fan of snakes. This wasn't helped any by a stop at a New Mexico rest area where the first thing that greeted you was a very large sign warning you to be aware of the crawling reptiles. I hopped out of the car with a fairly strong urge to use the facilities. A truck driver exiting them casually said, "Don't worry about the one over in the corner, he's just a little guy and won't bother you." A quick peek around the corner and suddenly I no longer had either the need or the desire to use the restroom. What looked to me to be a very large rattlesnake was lounging in the far corner under the sinks. I managed to wait another hour until I arrived at my hotel before I even had any thought of needing a bathroom.
The following morning, I set out from Clayton, NM enroute to Dallas to meet up with some friends and fellow photographers. The first leg of the trip took me from Clayton to Amarillo. While traveling south along US 287, I couldn't help marvel at the beautiful day and the scenery that was so foreign to me. Vast tracts of flat, interspersed with an occasional rolling hill or a carved out river valley...it was interesting and had my eyes constantly scanning for a photo opportunity. I could only wish to have filmed what happened next.
Ahead of me were a tractor trailer and a large 15 passenger van towing a trailer. I pulled out to pass and had just cleared the semi when I noticed something ahead of the van that looked like a large stick lying in the road. The driver of the van was unable to avoid it and the wheels on the driver's side ran over the object very close to one end. At this point, it became crystal clear that the object was a fair sized rattler...maybe a bit less than 4 feet long. Instead of balling up like most snakes do, this one did something a wee bit different. It stiffened and went straight as an arrow. The trailer wheels struck it and the snake was thrown into the air...still stiff as a board! The snake passed me in mid-air in somewhat of a heads up vertical position, only to meet the radiator shroud of the tractor trailer. Splat! The truck now had a hood ornament with the head of the snake looking back at the driver. Now, if I didn't know better, I could have sworn that that snake looked at me as he went by, with that whole "help me" look plastered on his face. I suspect that I can give Dan the credit for that vision.
The driver immediately slowed his rig and pulled to the shoulder...no doubt to remove his passenger. I, on the other hand, stepped on the gas and headed to Amarillo, chuckling at the absurdity of the moment and thanking my lucky stars that the snake hadn't come to visit my car.